BURLY Q A pink bunny suit. The forbidding mustache of a Latin American militarist. A skulking spy, a washed-up punk rocker, a burly lumberjack. This was SF's burgeoning neo-burlesque scene, but Eddie Dane's outfits stayed firmly in place on stage. Shouldn't the women shuffling off their lacy purple push-ups — not this giant carnival barker! — be the ones in grabbing the spotlight with their tongue-in-cheek costumes?
But it was always apparent that Dane, cofounder of SF's notorious troupe Hubba Hubba Revue who died March 10 of heart problems and kidney failure, knew burlesque was about more than just the boobies.
"He offered burlesque in its true form: a variety show. With Dane's Dames it wasn't just about the strippers — we had skits, comedy, we had Gorilla X!" Nicollete Daly, a.k.a. Desire d'Amour, says it was Dane who inspired her burlesque career — indeed, his original group's show at Bruno's in the late 1990s was the first time her eyes were opened to that curvy road to glory that the art form offered.
Dane started the "bevy of beguiling ecdysiasts" (so-called by that aforementioned Hubba Hubba perennial, Gorilla X, a.k.a. performer Mig Ponce) dubbed Dane's Dames in 1999, a mix of skin-baring sexiness and the baggy pants comedy of 1940s and '50s. The group performed at the 2001 Tease-O-Rama convention in New Orleans that many credit with providing the meeting space-crucible that tipped the old vaudeville form into its current renaissance. Nowadays, your neighborhood dive bar gives Burly Q classes and the Pussycat Dolls have made a marabou-sequin-satin splash all over the faces of MTV and Cher — but back then it was up to the performers and troupe leaders to dictate the sentiment of the new movement.
"Eddie showed everyone that a male troupe leader could be respectful of the women and not just trying to make a buck off a woman's body. He used to be like a mother hen, making sure we were all ready and set for the stage," Daly says.
"Eddie was always looking for new and different acts to evolve the genre rather than give continual homage to what it was at its inception," chimes in Fritz Striker, Dane's closest compadre for 15 years who shared a flat with him for the last three before his untimely death. That hunt for the new and unusual led to the Hubba Hubba Revue, which Dane started with friend and dedicated heckler Jim "Kingfish" Sweeney in 2005. The two managed one of the city's best burlesque teams and provided comedic relief while dresses and bra tops were swept off the stage.
"We were doing a show a couple years ago where I was dressed as a dictator of a tiny country and he was my military strongman," recalls Sweeney. "We're both in these fake mustaches. As we're barreling along through the dialogue, Eddie's mustache comes off little by little, until one whole side of it is flapping around every time he talks. We're starting to laugh and forget our lines. Eddie stops in the middle of the scene in front of 500 people and says, in character, 'I think my mustache is making a break for it!' I laughed nonstop for about a minute."
The community will be out in force April 14 for Hubba Hubba's planned memorial show for Dane at the DNA Lounge. Just don't expect it to be a stoic affair, especially considering what those close to him say Dane will be remembered for. Says Sweeney: "Mostly he'll be remembered for the fact that nobody — absolutely nobody — loved a gross joke more than Eddie."